Mak is visiting me, at least… (Journal #37)

I stayed in the Healers’ Hall for three weeks. Mak would visit every day, and somehow, he arranged it with all three of my professors that I could attend class virtually. They recorded the lectures, and Mak and I would watch them together the next morning. My arm healed so rapidly that fifteen different healers made a point of stopping by my room to see the results.

I…tolerated…that. Only because I know what it means for our people. The hope so many healers have lived with for so long, their prayers in vain to the goddess for this very thing.

I couldn’t do it—the torture of watching my charges die while I stood helplessly. 

The Woald line has been given two healers—Iahanna and Cayri—now. They are the first Woald healers to have been born in over five hundred years. Theo’s sister Bronwen is another, though she is a Sebastos by family name. Woalds do not have healers born. It is just known.

A painkiller alone is remarkable. Something they are likening to human antibiotics is a miracle. 

One that many praised the goddess for.

Me, I’m not so sure how I feel about the goddess. She got so involved in a nasty fight with the Lupoiux wolf god five thousand years ago that they practically destroyed our people as we were then. It’s written down in the Woald Family Journals. 

Journals that the Equa of the Woald keep locked in our vault, hidden under the fountain in the private courtyard I’d shown Mickey just a few weeks ago.

I have been meaning to ask if I can read them someday soon. For my history of families research project I’m required to do.

Class is about the only thing I can focus on right now.

Otherwise, I’ll get caught up in worrying—there are demons out to kill me, after all. 

Mak said it ties into what happened before. With Olietus Black and that stupid arrow that nearly took off my head that night.

Theo came by. To apologize for being wrong in what he had seen. He’d said he has been inundated by visions of our people lately. And he misinterpreted the one about me. That there had been a strange cloud surrounding it that had obscured what it actually meant. Or twisted it, as if someone knew he was looking, seeing, and wanted to throw him off somehow.

Well, there are few beings that could have been. Fates, maybe? The goddess herself? I’m not sure I believe him, honestly.

It is just too far-fetched to be believed.

He’d seemed sincere. As long as I have known the male—my entire life—you would think I’d know him well enough to evaluate when he is being truthful.

Still…I’m not so sure that I do believe that.

No one knows what the demon meant by queen, either. 

Everyone assumes it means Kindara Jareth, Cormac’s sister and the First Healer of our people. Did you know she’s bonded with the High Demon King now? He is good friends with the Tanisses.

Her own Rajni was murdered by Mickey Taniss’s grandfather.

Kindara has mated that demon king. 

I’ve not seen him, but he’s in the building somewhere.

I don’t want to meet him, or his brother—who is also here somewhere, I’ve heard—ever. 

I don’t ever want to see a demon again.

Demons mean nothing but trouble. I don’t know why one would have come for me. That is an answer no one really has.

I’m being discharged from the Healers’ Hall tomorrow. But I’m not going home. I’m being assigned a suite. In Theo’s wing. Where I can supposedly be watched over and kept safe. 

Kellis is staying with me. 

I just worry that this will never end. Will I ever get to go home again?

I…have a feeling I never will.

I don’t like Cormac Jareth one bit. (Journal Entry #36)

Well. I have stitches. Hundreds of them. Not to mention superglue. They are holding my skin together. It looks wickedly raw and very dangerous. Not to mention painful. “It’s not green any longer!”

“No. There are no signs of infection or of poison, thank the goddess,” Barlaam said, carefully inspecting every inch of my arm. “Kindara’s demon find has saved your life, Jume. If this attack had happened even a week ago, I’m sorry to say we wouldn’t be seeing the same results. You’ll need to stay still for a week or two. Let the skin heal over it. Nothing strenuous. Bed rest completely. I’m going to have you assigned to one of our private rooms three floors up, with a junior healer to care for you. If you need anything, she’ll fetch it for you. Try to keep as still as you possibly can. Thank you…for being willing to test this out. I know how terrified you must have been.”

Well, I hadn’t exactly had a whole lot of choice, had I? But I didn’t say that. My mother had raised me to be more polite than that. I said something appropriate, though I can’t remember what it was. 

Then I looked at the Predatoi staring at me. 

He had pulled a digital camera from his pocket. “I need to take photos of the wounds now. Thadd took initial photos after he stitched you up. While you were unconscious from the damned demon brew my brother-in-law provided to my sister.”

I nodded. Part of my job with Theo had been to make copies of assault photos. It was never easy to see. And I’m not exactly thrilled that my photo will forever be in a file in Theo’s office for any law clerk or justice worker to see whenever they wanted. All it would take would be them getting curious about demon handiwork. 

But our system of justice did work well. Up to a point, anyway. 

To be honest, the entire conversation was starting to exhaust me. I lay back against the pillows while he took his blasted photos. 

“So tell me, Jume,” Cormac said. “Why would a demon assassin come after you? And what was the exact message he shouted?”

My eyes flew open, and I just stared into his. “I don’t know. I don’t know why any of this keeps happening to me. I’ve never done anything to anyone to deserve it!”

After that, Kellis lit into him. So badly I thought he was going to fire her on the spot. But he didn’t.

He just turned to me after Kellis was starting to wind down. A sharp pain went through my head at his look, and I closed my eyes quickly.

“I’ll find out the answers for you. I damned well promise that. You just…keep yourself safe in the meantime.”

I nodded, thinking the whole time:

Just how in the three hells am I supposed to do that?

Science Experiment: Success. (Journal Entry #35)

Cormac Jareth looked at Ambrea and Kellis. “Leave us. We have questions for your sister.”

Kellis bristled.

“I don’t think Jume needs to be alone,” Kellis said hotly. “I’m staying. As her representative. To protect her interests.”

“She doesn’t need a rep unless she’s done something criminal.”

Like abduct a young, deaf human and keep her as his captive mate? Like Cormac had? Mickey’s cousin—Cormac’s new female—was deaf, after all.

almost asked it. I don’t know where the impulse came from. But it was there.

Maybe demon-spirin loosened a Dardaptoan’s tongue, so to speak? 

This Equa was a good friend of Theo’s. He’d been involved in the taking of the Taniss Four. I had no doubt that he—actually Kellis’s boss, along with Aodhan Adrastos—was about to interrogate me like I was a criminal.

I’m trying not to be nervous. But it’s hard. I’m not a criminal. I’ve not done anything wrong. 

The worst thing I have ever done in the past ten years was sneak out of class to go to the bathroom and wash my face this afternoon. If that’s a crime, lock me up and throw away the key.

I do not feel up to this. Not at all. 

“In the event of a medical incapacitation, a familial representative is allowed and required by section 1.345b of the Dardanos City Code.” Kellis shot back. “Remember that…sir?”

I was getting the strange feeling that Kellis didn’t like this guy at all.

Well, I don’t blame her. He’s terrifying. I don’t like him much, either.

He’s the best Predatoi our Kind has ever seen. The Demon Hunter, he has been called for centuries.

Demon. No wonder he was so intense. Those things…I never want to see a demon again.

“I’m n-not sure why the d-demon came for me,” I said as Ambrea scooped a sleeping Alleah into her arms and my sisters left me. 

Kellis stayed. 

Like I had known she would. She settled on the bed next to me, her hand going around my uninjured one. She’s smaller than me, she and Alaun both, but Kellis can be fierce.

Especially when she’s as afraid as she is now. I can feel her fear as strongly as if it were my own.

The healer, Barlaam, brother to our king, started pulling the tape from my other arm.

I tensed, even more than I already am. I am not certain I wanted to see what the demon did to me. 

“Why are you doing this?” I asked quietly. “Am I going to be ok?”

Barlaam smiled at me reassuringly. I have met him many times before. He and Thadd are good friends and colleagues. Plus, he was in and out of Theo’s office on a frequent basis. 

He brought me roses on my sixtieth birthday. And to tell you a secret, he caught me under the human mistletoe hung in the hotel lobby when I was fifty-nine. He gave me my second kiss that day. Short, sweet, a memory I will always cherish, though, of course, he meant nothing by it. He was the only male to have ever given me flowers.

Until Mak.

Mak. 

I had forgotten Mak. I looked at Kellis. “Where’s Mak? Is he ok? Was he injured?”

Kellis squeezed my hand. “He’s fine. He’s with Aodhan Adrastos in the prison cells now. He asked to be allowed to…participate…in the interrogation of the demon.”

She’d hesitated. I knew what an interrogation meant. They were going to get the answers out of the demon. Even if it meant beating them out of him.

Sometimes, Dardaptoan laws could be exceptionally archaic. Especially when there are threats to our people. Theoretically, I can understand the how and why of that, but that doesn’t mean I condone it.

I had heard Mishja and Theo arguing about that hundreds of times over the last few decades. 

Barlaam finished with the bandages. 

He swore. My attention jerked to him immediately. “What is it?”

I was terrified to look. What if Thadd had been wrong? What if the demon medication had failed? What if it just prolonged the inevitable?

I was afraid to hope.

“Barl?” Cormac asked. 

“It’s…healing.” He shot me a look, one filled with amazement. “Kindara was right. She’s done it. It’s healing.”

Ok. So I’m beyond thrilled that we’ve found something to help our people heal. But…it is my arm they are oohing and aahing over here. 

That deserves some decisive action on my part.

It is time I look for myself.

In search of answers… (Journal Entry #34)

“Not yet.” Kellis hesitated. “They caught the demon. Mak kept him alive. They are going to be questioning him soon. Theo asked to be included in the interrogation specifically. You aren’t the first to be attacked by demons in the last few weeks. His female has also been targeted. Demons don’t want her daughter to be born. She will be exceptionally powerful someday.”

“But why did they target me? That is what I don’t understand. H-he said something to me: The queen must never live. I have no idea what that m-means.”

Ambrea’s face paled. She stepped closer to the bed. She wasn’t an exceptionally strong seer, but she saw enough at times. “It means the future is coming, Jume. I don’t know enough of what your part will be. Just that it is going to be our time when it does.”

“What do you mean?”

“There have been legends. Passed down through the Woald. It has something to do with the creation of our people, with the war with the Lupoiux, with the goddess and how she is to be freed. What it will set into motion. And it will involve so many of the Woald. I was hoping it was far in the future. That we would have time to prepare more fully,” Ambrea said softly. She sank to the bed beside me. “I will have to find the journals Mama kept. She was a far more gifted seer than I am. The Sebastos blood was stronger in her.”

We are Theo’s cousins through our father and his mother, but somewhere back in the line, there was another female Woald who found her male in the Sebastos line. I’m not sure of it. That was one reason I signed up for History of Families. 

I want to know more about being Woald. But that is for later. 

For now… “Am I going to die young?”

It was the hardest question I have ever asked my sister.

And now I waited for her answer.

“I don’t know. I can’t see your fate. Or Julea’s, or Riv’s, or Kellis’s. I can see hints of Alaun’s. None of my own. I know Alaun—she will be happy, but she will hurt first. And Alleah’s is still in flux, while she is so young,” Ambrea said quietly. “I suspect that a lot of us get hints about what is going to happen to us. Feelings. But are those premonitions or just some vague instinct, or something we’re imagining? I don’t know yet.”

“I don’t have a Rajni.” I said it. Probably because of what had happened. I just can’t keep the secret any longer. 

“What did you say?” Kellis asked, slowly. 

“I said: I don’t have a Rajni. Maryin Sebastos told me years ago. And she likes to rub that in whenever our paths cross. So that means…I’m fated to die before I find him.” I looked at my sisters, a rush of love flooding me. They are my world, my family. My everything. “I’m fated to die. And I just know it.”

“Then so am I,” Kellis said bluntly. “Because I don’t have a Rajni, either. And that bitch Maryin didn’t have to tell me that, either. I have known since the moment I came of age. But that doesn’t mean I’m fated to die young, Jume. Any more than it means that you are. It’s just…we have a different destiny waiting for us out there. I don’t know what it is, but it’s out there. And it terrifies me.” 

“You just have to find it,” Ambrea said, tears flowing unchecked down her cheeks. “Why didn’t you ever tell me?”

“Because I was ashamed at first. I have seen how those without fated mates are treated. Maryin Sebastos—”

“Is nothing more than a dried-up, pruny bitch,” Kellis said bluntly. Those two had never liked one another one bit. “She is jealous of you. And always has been.”

“Why on earth would she be jealous of me?”

‘”We’ll talk about that later,” Kellis said. “I think we need to get back to the issue at hand. Why in the three hells was a demon after you?” 

“I have no clue.” I leaned back against the pillows once more, suddenly exhausted.

Someone knocked on the door, cutting off Kellis’s next question. My sister was extremely good at interrogation, after all. I just didn’t feel up to answering her questions. Not when I don’t have the answers myself.

I looked up. 

Just as the Jareth Equa and the Second Healer, Barlaam, entered the room. 

Lead settled in my stomach. They would have questions for me. Questions I definitely cannot answer…

Because I don’t have those answers for myself.

Not yet. 

I’m not certain that I ever will.

Am I still demon bait? (Journal Entry #33)

My normally stoic, brave, totally kick-ass big sister burst into tears right next to me. 

Someone moved near Kellis’s shoulder. I turned more fully then. I still hurt, but it was starting to dull. 

There was my eldest sister, Ambrea. Alaun, Riv, and Julea were right behind her. Alleah, a tiny version of us all, was sleeping in a big chair behind them. 

I pulled myself up to sit, probably more quickly than I should have. “You’re all here.”

“Yes,” Ambrea said. “How do you feel?”

How do I feel? “L-like I was almost killed by a demon. And he said something… about a demon q-queen. I have no clue what it m-means.”

“We’re still trying to figure out what it means,” Kellis said, after getting herself together. Riv had her arm around Kellis, comforting her. But there were tear tracks on Riv’s cheeks, too.

“I’m sorry for scaring you. Um…I’m not dying still, am I?” I looked down at my arm. All I saw was a mountain of white bandages. “Did the demon potions work?”

“I can’t believe you let them use demon stuff on you,” Julea said. “That was incredibly brave, Jume. Especially since it was a demon that attacked you.”

“It wasn’t brave. It was hope. I am just not ready to leave you all yet. Not yet.”

“Well, you won’t be leaving us at all,” Kellis said, so fierce I looked at her to make certain she wasn’t angry. “The demon brews Thadd gave you worked.”

“He gave me an actual painkiller. And it worked.” I looked at my sisters. We all knew what that meant for our people. I fought tears and a grin and shout of joy at what it meant for our people. Our people, painkillers. Something the other Kinds took for granted. And now…we have one. For all of us. “And he put something called an ointment on my arm before he stitched it together. My arm was starting to turn green. From poison.”

“You were so lucky,” Kellis said. “Had Mak not been there, and had Kindara not recently returned from the demon world, we would have lost you.”

“Has anyone figured out why the demon came for me?” I started shaking as the memory of that horrible monster flooded my mind again. 

I now have something else to add to my nightmares. Demons coming for me. Maybe he was just the first? Maybe there are more out there somewhere? 

I don’t know what I am supposed to do now…

Alive! I am not demon food, after all! (Journal Entry #32)

The room was spinning around me. There were purple lights above my head. They were moving. The sense of falling sickened me. 

I’ll admit it: an undignified whimper escaped. 

I know where I am right now. I’m in the middle of the nightmare. I hate the nightmare. 

It’s dark. Terrifying here where I am. 

He’s here. I can feel him. 

Watching me. 

I whimpered again. Why do I keep having these dreams? 

He stepped closer to me. I wanted to run, but there was a strange lethargy coating my body. Especially my left arm. It felt like lead. And fire.

Always the fires. 

Every night I have the nightmare, I wake up smelling sulfur. Hellfire, some of Alaun’s books call it. 

But why would I dream of demons? 

Demons.

Fire increased in my arm. And that’s when I remembered.

Demon. I was attacked by a demon.

I bit back a scream as I forced my eyes open. I must have died. 

My soul must have moved on. To the first of the three hells. Where the nonwarriors and the nonroyalty go. The common people of our Kind. 

For my soul to stay in eternal waiting.

I want to cry. I can’t cry. I can’t. 

What would Kellis say if she caught me crying now?

Thought of my big sister had that urge just doubling. I’ll never see Kellis again…now.

I did cry out then. I called my sister’s name. 

At least, I thought I cried out.

It must have come out with a whimper.

“Jumena Kyrenna. You open those eyes and look at me. Right this minute,” a bossy female voice said right next to me. Someone squeezed my hand. Right next to me, but I couldn’t see her.

My eyes did fly open then.

To see the bright lights of the Healers’ Hall above me. And Kellis right there next to me. Kellis, with her hair just like mine and the same freckles she shared with Alaun. She was so beautiful. The most beautiful thing I have ever seen in that moment. I was seeing Kellis again. For real.

I didn’t die.

“Kellis! I’m alive!”

I am Thadd’s Science Project. (Journal Entry #31)

Thadd spread a thin layer of the “toothpaste” on the first of the cuts. “It’ll sink in and act as a cleanser, I think. It’s made from a common plant in the demon world. They even eat it at times. How does it feel?”

“Weird. It’s like a toothpaste but thinner.”

“Humans have what they call ointment. We sell some in the gift shop downstairs. I studied some once. I’m not sure what this one does, exactly. It cleanses and fights bacteria. At least, that is what we are hoping. It worked well on Aureliana when she was injured in the demon land. But she wasn’t poisoned.”

“So you don’t know if it works on poisoned wounds or not?” It was tingling. Not exactly hurting, but it wasn’t exactly a pleasant feeling, either. 

“No. In theory, Phelius, the chief demon healer, has said that it works against ninety percent of the poisons of his world. He said his cousin Sinrik—a gifted seer, I have been told, though how he compares to Theo I can only guess—recommended that we keep this on hand from the first. He said a young female might have need of it. I am hoping he meant you.” He opened the vial and handed it to me. “You’ll need to drink it before I begin the stitching process.”

Now I did bite back a whimper. I’ve had stitches once before, when I cut open my foot on a piece of glass in my father’s field more than fifty years ago. It had been the most painful experience in my life, and I will never forget how my strong, stoic father had panicked at the sight of my blood that day. 

It wasn’t an experience I am eager to repeat. 

“How does it feel now? It might take a good fifteen minutes for the demon-spirin to work. Kindara has named it after a basic human painkiller and anti-inflammatory.”

I had a sneaky suspicion I was acting as Thadd’s latest science experiment, here. 

Still…if I die today, maybe I can do some good for my people before I go. Who knows? Maybe they’ll name it Jume-menophen instead of demon-spirin in my honor someday? Being the first Dardaptoan it didn’t work for had to mean something, right?

“Tingles. Burns a little but not as bad as his claws did. It’s almost a cold burn, if that makes sense?”

“It does. We’ll watch. See if the poison recedes. In the meantime, I’m going to do what I can to boost your body’s natural healing process.”

This at least was something I was familiar with. I held still. Thadd sent his healing gift into my body through the connection he had established with me through the hold he had on my wrist.

Then…everything went numb, and the lights around me blurred together. “Th-Thadd? What is…happen…ing…?”

“Shhh, cousin. It’s the painkiller working. I think…it’s actually knocking you out. Go to sleep, little Jume. That is probably best; I’ll handle the stitches while you are out. Then you won’t have to feel a thing.”

“Tell my sisters…if I don’t wake…up…again…just how much I…love…them. They m-mean the worlds to me forever.”

“I’ll do that. I promise. I’ll be right here when you wake.”

Demons got me. (Journal Entry #30)

Mak wasn’t the only warrior in the sitting area. Thank the goddess. They were younger warriors, but they were strong enough to fight, on Mak’s orders.

I just kept thanking the goddess for that as Mak carried me toward the small office in the basement where the campus healer worked. 

It was just a young female there, but she patched my arm where the hideous, eight-inch gashes bled and bled. I was still bleeding. 

I knew that I could die if the bleeding didn’t stop soon. 

The junior healer, Mada, looked at me. “You need to get to the Healers’ Hall, as quickly as possible. The blood loss is significant. And I don’t know enough about demon wounds to get it to stop.”

“We’ll go now,” Mak said. “Have the Adrastos and Jareth Equa meet us there.” 

I wrapped my uninjured arm around his neck, fighting the urge to cry. 

I’m not a weak female. I’m not. 

I wasn’t about to let myself cry. I’m stronger than that. Crying wouldn’t help anyone get through this. Not Mak, and definitely not me.

Mak carried me to his truck, two of the security warriors trailing after us. To guard.

Against another demon attack.

Demon.

That’s what Mak and the healer had both said that creature was. I started shaking even harder.

“He didn’t look like the demons in Alaun’s books,” I said for no reason at all. I didn’t know where the words came from, but they were something. I had to say something.

“No, I don’t suppose he did. He was an askasodreno demon. They are mercenaries. Hired killers.”

“I thought that was over. Theo said I was going to be safe.”

“Well, Theo was wrong.” I didn’t miss the fury in Mak’s tone.

“That’s never happened before.”

“Always a first time for everything.” Mak pressed a hard kiss against my lips before lowering me to the passenger seat of the truck. “Keep the arm elevated. I’m going to get you to the Healers’ Hall as fast as I can, baby. I promise.”

Kindara wasn’t there, even though Mak carried me in, demanding the best healer our tribe had.

Thadd was there, instead. Big, strong, warm honey-brown hair, and thick glasses, he had always been one of the calmest, most reassuring males I have ever known. 

He, unlike his brother, has always been one of my favorite cousins.

My father and his mother were first cousins. He is family.

I always felt safer with my family.

“What happened?” he asked, unwrapping Mak’s now ruined hasha from around my arm. Hashas came in handy for so many things.

I just hissed as pain radiated from the wounds marring my skin. Nothing had ever burned more. 

“She was attacked by a demon. Askasodreno,” Mak said. “On the college campus.”

“Good Goddess, are you certain that’s what it was? I’m going to need to clean it. I won’t lie. This will burn. Greatly. I…” Thadd pressed against the worst wound gently. “I can try something. If you are willing. But I have no idea what will happen, and no guarantees.”

“What in the three hells are you talking about?” Mak asked. I heard fury in his words. I looked at him quickly. There was so much suspicion in his gold eyes as he hovered over me protectively. 

“Something Kindara and Barlaam are experimenting with now. Kindara has theorized that the demon chemical that Incubi demons are capable of creating actually can act as a pain-killing agent for our people. And this herb here, a common leaf from the demon world, acts as an astringent in Relaklonos. We met with the chief demon healers just this morning. No one except for Kindara and Aodhan, and Aureliana, have used it yet.” Thadd met my eyes as he pulled a dark vial of bright-purple liquid out of a nearby cabinet, followed by another jar of what looked like a strange red toothpaste. “I don’t know if they will work. And if this gets infected or if that demon had poison barbs in his claws, I am not certain you will survive, Jume. We have two options—we can clean it and pray to the goddess that’s enough, or we can try demon cleansers and demon blood.”

“These demon scratches just might kill me, won’t they?” An icy calmness surrounded me as I looked my cousin straight on. Thadd wouldn’t lie. He was one of the most honest males I know. Nor would he sugar-coat it. I trusted him to tell me like it is. 

“Yes. Askasodreno are usually armed with poisoned claws. And from the green spreading over your forearm here, I am convinced this one was as well. It’s only a matter of time. It will be fatal unless we neutralize the poison straight away.”

I know I am fated to die early, but I am not ready to die today. “Then there is no real choice, is there? Just…do it, ok? Before I change my mind. Give me the demon potion.” I pulled in a deep breath and looked at the male warrior holding my other hand. “Mak? Will you go? Bring my sisters to me? Just in case…I need to see my sisters again. One more time. Just in case this is the last day I have.”

He nodded, then left without saying a word. But I could see the panic in his eyes. And I know. I most likely am going to die today.

The demons. (Journal Entry #29)

I could see Mak now, from where I was heading up the hallway. 

He had a few younger females near him. Watching him. I rolled my eyes to myself. I know we Dardaptoans almost always look around the same age—although some of us are cursed to look even younger. (Poor Riv has that very problem, she barely looks of age at all. It drives her insane to constantly be mistaken for a teenager!) 

It’s the way they dress that tells me how old they are. 

By the time we’re forty or fifty, we tend to tone down the more outlandish human outfits and settle into more traditional Dardaptoan wear. 

I mean, we’re Dardaptoans! We’re big on tradition, after all. At least we Woalds are. We take part in all the ceremonies. And we even have some of our own to honor Aerim.

The Feast of Aerim is the biggest Woald holiday of the year, and it happens around the winter solstice each year.

The females were young, and they were watching him. Wanting to touch him, maybe, on the hopes that he was their Rajni and just didn’t know it yet. Sometimes, it takes touch to know for sure.

Julea used to have a reoccurring nightmare when she was younger. She’d climb in my bed with me, and I’d tell her that it would be ok. I helped my parents with her quite a bit after she was born; my mother had been very weak after that day for several years. 

Julea’d dream that she was in the same room with her mate, and he’d never know because he never touched her.

After all, unless there are serious feelings between unrelated Dardaptoans, the males don’t touch the females! 

I’d tell her that wasn’t the way it worked. Daddy had said he knew his mate the moment she spoke to him. Just that quickly.

No doubt, it would be that easy for my sisters, too. I hope so. I want them to find their males and be happy forever.

Mak looked up. We made eye contact. I smiled at him, though I was a complete mess inside.

Then I heard a pop right beside me.

Everyone around me screamed. Several of the females tried to run.

I turned to see what it was that scared them so badly.

And found myself staring straight into the eyes of a hideous red monster that had to stand seven and a half feet tall.

With claws longer than my fingers coming right at me.

I screamed and tried to back away, to run.

Just as Mak came running, sword drawn.

He was too late. 

The claws sliced at my right arm, ripping through my favorite yellow vestis. Fire. Fire unlike any I had ever felt before flooded through me, and I fell to the ground.

I tried to pull myself to my knees, to crawl away. To just get away. But I couldn’t move fast enough.

The beast screeched as Mak reached us. “The queen must never live!”

The fire consumed me, and I fell into the flames. I could hear the sounds of battle raging around me.

Time to claim normal… (Journal Entry #28)

I don’t remember much of what happened after that. He walked me into class—this one, actually, some of you might have seen him with me—and I took my seat near the back of the classroom. Near the door. 

We were the first ones there, except for the instructor. His hand rose to cup my cheek. “I’ll see you in history class. I have some calls to make while you’re in class now.”

I nodded. Our schedules weren’t a one hundred percent match. He usually used my digital media class time to read and work on his own independent-study project. 

He was determined to learn everything he possibly could about the demon worlds. Not world, but worlds. I asked Theo about that, about how many demon worlds there actually were. He is a very learned male, after all.

He looked at me and flat out refused to answer. “I’m not telling you that.”

Blunt. Rude. Not like Theo at all.

Well. I’m just going to have to ask someone else; Alaun might know. 

Mak was working on something he hadn’t exactly shared details about either. But I noticed him drawing maps one day while I was working, and we were “ignoring” each other. 

“I’ll be ok, you know.” 

“I know you will. We’ll figure this out. I have faith in the goddess that we’ll do just that.”

Well, I’m glad one of us does. 

Like I’ve said before…I’m pretty sure the House of Woald is one the goddess forsook a long, long time ago.

I blanked out for the rest of the class as I tried to process everything that happened today. Everything that has happened in the last month. Everything Mak had said.

It was a bit overwhelming, and I needed to breathe. I excused myself from class. I headed to the restroom, just to wash my face. 

I could see Mak across the lobby area, his books spread out in front of him—not like Demonology 101 was anywhere online for humans to find, after all!—intent on his work.

That is one thing I admire about him. He does everything with intensity. Arrogant and intense, but calm and kind, too. He is such a contradiction. 

I almost went over to him, told him what I was doing. Probably because over the last month he has been told my every move from morning until the night guard took over. But no.

It was time to claim normal again, right?

I hurried in the restroom; as much as I needed the break, I’m a rule follower. Since I’m paying to be in class right now, I should be in class right now.

I made my way back, feeling only slightly clearer headed than before I left.